Onsite Wastewater Resource Center

Our Mission

The Onsite Wastewater Resource Center at the University of Rhode Island seeks to educate communities and wastewater practitioners on onsite wastewater systems, advance the use of conventional and innovative and alternative technologies to improve and protect public health and water quality, and to encourage sustainable development in the Northeast. We conduct research, train wastewater professionals and provide educational opportunities throughout the community as we pursue our mission.


Researchers pounding a coring device into a drainfield in a shaded lawn

Alongside the URI Laboratory of Soil Ecology and Microbiology, we research optimizing treatment performance of advanced nitrogen removal technologies, soil-based wastewater treatment, the impact of climate variability and sea level rise on onsite wastewater treatment. We are also currently partnering with the Town of Charlestown, RI to pilot a low-cost Nitrogen reducing drainfield option.

New England Onsite Wastewater Training Center

A primary component of the program is the Onsite Wastewater Training Center (OWTC) located at the University’s Peckham Research Farm. It is a hands-on demonstration and field training facility for both conventional systems and advanced wastewater treatment technologies. The OWTC is one of eight regional centers in the nation and has been in operation since 1993. It was developed in partnership with over 40 private sector contractors, the RI Department of Environmental Management, the RI Independent Contractors and Associates, RI Sea Grant, the USEPA and others. The OWTC has twenty-five full scale systems constructed above ground for hands-on learning.

New England Onsite Wastewater Training Program

The New England Onsite Wastewater Training Program (NEOWTP) offers classroom and field training experience for wastewater professionals, regulators, municipal and state officials, watershed groups, and homeowners. NEOWTP staff conduct 35 – 40 classes a year both virtually and in-person on the URI Kingston campus and virtually, as well as some other locations in the Northeast. We work in cooperation with state regulatory agencies to provide classes that are approved for continuing education credits to help wastewater professionals get and renew their onsite wastewater licenses.  Each year we train 500 people, providing the latest information about design, installation, inspection and maintenance of onsite technologies.  

Community Engagement

Through outside grants, NEOWTP staff have facilitated the design and installation of over sixty advanced treatment demonstration and research systems installed in six Rhode Island communities. These systems serve as in-field training sites for practitioners both during (on the job site training) and after construction (tours of new technologies). Monitoring and evaluating the treatment performance of these systems has resulted in positive changes in onsite wastewater regulations and policy in the region.

We also work with students of all ages, homeowners and community organizations to protect environmental health by exploring the importance of wastewater treatment and sustainable landscape design. We also work closely with other URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality Programs to help folks protect their drinking and nearby water resources.